Patients say they would pay more quickly with online access

A survey finds that e-mail and Web-based payment would ease confusion about medical statements.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted March 22, 2011

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Patients suggest that if physicians want to improve their collections, they should provide online access.

An Intuit Health survey found that patients often are late in paying not because they don't have the money, but because they are confused about their bills. The survey said e-mailing questions and paying online would correct the delay quickly. This would reduce the administrative costs physicians run up by sending multiple mailings to collect one bill, said Warwick Charlton, MD, vice president and chief medical officer for Intuit Health.

"Even though there's anxiety about the total costs that they face in health care, the availability of online payment as an option is something that many of them would use," Dr. Charlton said. "And I think that's because it helps their sense of control and visibility and probably ties more directly back to the event" they are paying for.

70% concerned about bills

The Intuit Health Second Annual Health Care Check-up Survey of 1,000 American adults found that 70% of patients are concerned about managing their health care bills, and two-thirds believe their health care costs will increase. At the same time, 73% said they would use a secure online communication tool that would make it easier to get lab results, request appointments, pay medical bills and communicate with their doctor's office.

Forty-five percent of the patients wait more than a month to pay their doctor bills, and half still send paper checks.

Part of the problem is that people are confused about their medical bills. For example, one in five patients was unsure whether to pay a physician or insurance company.

Sixty-six percent of baby boomers said their costs already increased, and 72% expressed concern about rising costs, compared with 59% of people born after 1965.

When compared with younger adults, baby boomers are less demanding of online access. However, a large number of baby boomers are still interested in having e-mail communication with their physicians, Dr. Charlton said.

Because people of all ages take care of most other financial transactions online -- banking, travel, retail shopping -- the ability to take care of their medical transactions online is moving from a request to a demand, the survey found.

Almost half the survey respondents said they would consider switching to a practice that offered the ability to perform health care tasks online.

Offering this function and online scheduling could be important first steps toward a comprehensive online communication tool.

"The online dialogue will be started," Dr. Charlton said. Then "it won't seem so foreign and strange" to add other Web-based functions such as lab results and personal health record access, he said.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn